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merican Chestnut Vision 

Upland Game Bird Trail 

Never Too Late 

Bob Duncan 

his month I celebrate my 

one-year anniversary in 
leading this organization. I 
wish to assure you that our 
agency is standing firmly on 
its feet and I am so very grate- 
ful to a cadre of long-serving, 
dedicated employees who 
have kept us operating on solid ground 
during some turbulent times. 

At the same time, we — like all 
wildlife management agencies across 
the country — face unprecedented chal- 
lenges from a changing landscape, 
from shifts in settlement patterns across 
the state, and from evolving lifestyles 
that reflect, in general, less time spent in 
forests, fields, and streams. 

And as you are undoubtedly 
aware, all government institutions are 
facing shortfalls due to the downturn in 
the economy. A dramatic drop-off in 
watercraft sales and use tax traiisfers is 
but one tangible example affecting our 
bottom line. 

For these reasons and many others, 
we have enlisted the help of an outside 
team to closely examine how we func- 
tion as an agency. A small group of ex- 
perts from North Highland and the 
Titan Group has been chin-deep in a 
management study over the past sever- 
al months. Specifically, they are looking 
at four strands of our structure and 
governance: our business processes; 
our financial modeling; our organiza- 

tional make-up; and devel- 
opment of a strategic look 
forward. North Highland 
has performed similar stud- 
ies for other state agencies to 
help them improve efficien- 
cies while charting a focused 
course toward the future. 
Their evaluation of this Department 
will include both current modes of oper- 
ation as well as business opportunities 
for the decade ahead. Included will be 
such things as estimating future capital 
needs and determining where and to 
what extent revenue gaps may exist. 
Naturally, that will lead to close exami- 
nation of how to create new revenue 
streams in today's marketplace. Also of- 
fered in their report will be recommen- 
dations for long-term strategies to im- 
prove our day-to-day business process- 
es, to eliminate waste and duplication, 
and accordingly, to reduce costs. 

While this sort of undertaking is 
never easy or comfortable (change 
never is!), I believe the timing of this 
study is superb. We find ourselves at a 
critical juncture as an agency, and we 
will benefit greatly from the shared per- 
spective of trained, outside experts 
looking in. 

The outcomes will be many, but the 
bottom line is this: We will better serve 
you, our constituents, and position the 
Department to better meet the maiiy re- 
source challenges aliead. 

Mis.sion Statement 

To manage Virginia's wildlife and inland fish to maintain oplimnni populations of all species to sene the needs of the Common\\e;dth; 
To pnnide op|)()i1iniity foi' all to eiiioy wildlife, inland fish, hoatiiig and related outdoor recreation and to work dihgcntk to s;ifeguard the 
rights of the people to hunt, fish and har\cst game -as provided for in the Constitution of Virginia: To promote safety for persons and prop- 
erty in connection v\ith boating, hunting and fishing; To provide educational outreach programs and materials that foster an awareness of 
and appreciation for Virginia's fish and wildlife resources, their habilaLs, and hunting, fishing, and boating opportunities. 

Dedicated to the Conservation of Virginia's Wildlife and Natural Resources 


Commonwealth of Virginia 
Timothy M. Kaine, Governor 



Subsidized this publication 

Secretary of Natural Resources 

L. Preston Bryant, Jr. 

Department of Game and 
Inland Fisheries 

Bob Duncan 
Executive Director 

Members of the Board 

Ward Burton, Halifax 
Sherry Smith Crumley, Buchanan 
William T. Greer, Jr., Norfolk 
James W. Hazel, Oakton 
C. T. Hill, Midlothian 
Randy J. Kozuch, Alexandria 
John W. Montgomery, Jr., Sandston 
Mary Louisa Pollard, Irvington 
Richard E. Railey, Courtland 
Thomas A. Stroup, Fairfax 
Charles S. Yates, Cleveland 

Magazine Staff 

Sally Mills, Editor 

Lee Walker, Ron Messina, Julia Dixon, 

Contributing Editors 

Emily Pels, Art Director 

Carol Kushlak, Production Manager 

Color separations and printing by 
Progress Printing, Lynchburg, VA. 

Virginia Wildlife {ISSN 0042 6792) is published month- 
ly by the Virginia Department of Game and Inlanc 
Fisheries. Send all subscription orders and address- 
changes to Virgiiiin Wildlife, P. O. Box 7477, Red Oak 
Iowa 51591-0477. Address all other communications 
concerning this publication to Virginia Wildlife, P. O 
Box 11104, 4010 West Broad Street, Richmond 
"Virginia 23230-1104. Subscription rates are $12.95 foi 
one year, $23.95 for two years; $4.00 per each back 
issue, subject to availability. Out-of-country rate is- 
$24.95 for one year and must be paid in U.S. funds 
No refunds for amounts less than $5.00. To sub- 
scribe, call toll-free (800) 710-9369. Postmaster 
Please send all address changes to Virginia Wildlife, 
PC. Box 7477, Red Oak, Iowa 51591-0477. Postage for 
periodicals paid at Richmond, Virginia and addition- 
al entry offices. 

Copyright 2009 by the Virginia Department of Game 
and Inland Fisheries. All rights reserved. 

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall 
afford to all persons an equal access to Department 
programs and facilities without regard to race, color, 
religion, national origin, disability, sex, or age. If you 
believe that you have been discriminated against in 
any program, activity or facility, please write to: 
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 
ATTN: Compliance Officer, (4010 West Broad Street.) 
PC. Box 11104, Richmond, Virginia 23230-1104. 

"This publication is intended for general information- 
al purposes only and every effort has been made to 
ensure its accuracy. The information contained herein 
does not serve as a legal representation of fish and 
wildlife laws or regulations. The Virginia Department 
of Game and Inland Fisheries does not assume 
responsibility for any change in dates, regulations, or 
information that may occur after publication." 

f\ Mixed Sources 


About the cover: 
** j /^ Reaching barely 
10 inches in 
length, the quail 
is a chunky up- 
land bird with a 
fanciful "bob- 
white" call and a 
loyal following 
among bird lovers 
and hunters. 
Quail are most 
often pursued on 
private hunting 
preserx'es, still 
plentiful across Virginia. See related 
stor>- on page 17. © J ohn R . F( ird 




For subscriptions, 

circulation problems 

and address changes 



12 issues for $12.95 
24 issues for $23-95 
36 issues for $29.95 

^ Pursuing an American Dream 
by Virginia Shepherd 
Researchers across the state persevere to bring 
back a might>' tree. 

Ill It's Never Too Late 

^^ by Curtis Badger 
A deer hunter proves that age does not trump 

Wroblick s Hunthi' House 
by Wayne C. Turner 


Step into another era ot hunting the fields and 
swamps ot eastern X'irginia. 

1^ Upland Game Bird Trail 

A private hunting preserv^e awaits you not far 
from home. 

fM Be Wild! Live Wild! Grow 
Lt Wild! 

by Spike Knuth 
Hie Fish Ducks. 

MWk "^^ "^^ Green" Team 

^^ by Gail Brown 
Recycling has become a passion for students at 
Ru'ers Edge. 

OD We Are Home 

^ ^^ by Wayne & Genevie Riner 

Tliis photo-essay celebrates the natural \\\inders 

ot Dickenson County. 

30 Journal 

39 Dining In 

Northern Neckcr Duck Gumbo 

34 Photo Tips 

Be A Deer and Be My Valentine! 


Restoring the 

American chestnut to 

our forests— and our 


by Virgima Shepherd 

fn the mountains of Nelson 
County, Dr. Gary Griffin jumps 
out of his white Chevy van and 
whistles for his dog. "Let's go. Tim- 
ber." A 14-year-old English setter. 
Timber is the second-best grouse dog 
Griffin has ever owned. "He still has 
at least one season left in him, I 
think," grins the optimistic Griffin, a 
lean and athletic figure in his late 60s. 
A member of The Loyal Order of 
Dedicated Grouse Hunters, Griffin 
sets a goal of spending 120 hours 
hunting grouse every year. That 
translates into a lot of forest he and 
Timber have covered together in Vir- 
ginia and West Virginia. But when 
Griffin is in the woods, he's not only 
grouse hunting. He's hunting chest- 
nuts. For more than 40 years. Griffin, 
a plant pathologist and professor 
emeritus at Virginia Tech, and wife 
Lucille have joined a handful of re- 
searchers on a quest to restore our 
blighted past and bring the American 
chestnut back to Virginia forests. 

One hundred years ago, the 
American chestnut, Castanea dentata, 
made up nearly one-quarter of the 
tree species in our woods, forming 
the very foundation of the southern 
Appalachians' forests. Reaching 
heights of more tlian 65 feet and 4-5 
feet in diameter, the hardy and ag- 
gressive American chestnut was the 
undisputed monarch of tlie forest. A 
tree of trvie abundance, it was a pre- 
ferred food of wild turkey, deer, bear, 
grouse, and squirrels, and one of the 
most important sources of income for 
mountain farmers who fattened their 
hogs on chestnuts and earned cash 


mean Dream 

by supplying the nut trade. Virginia 
was the very center of its kingdom, 
with chestnut forests spreading north 
and south through the Appalachians 
from New Hampshire to Georgia. 

Yet a microscopic firngtis invisi- 
ble to the naked eye brought this 
giant of the forest to its knees. In 1904, 
Cryphoncctria parasitica, the Asian 
fungus responsible for the chestnut 
blight, was first identified in New 
York in a stand of dying American 
chestnut trees. By 1914, the blight had 
reached Northern Virginia. By 1925, 
it was blazing through the Blue Ridge 
into North Carolina, killing virtually 
every overstory chestnut tree in its 
wake and spreading south and west 
at a rate of 24 miles per year. In a short 
40 years, the tiny fungus killed be- 
tween three anci four billion trees and 
completely dismantled the forest 
landscape in more than 33 million 
acres of the southern Appalachians. 

The devastation was nothing less 
than catastrophic, and frightening to 
those who realized there was nothing 
they could do to stop it. Susan 
Freinkel, in her must-read book. The 
American Chestnut: The Life, Death, and 
Rebirtli of a Perfect Tree, interviewed 
Joe Tribble, an eastern Kentvicky na- 
tive who remembers the death of the 
chestnut forests, "Man, I had the aw- 
fulest feeling about that as a child, to 
look back yonder and see those trees 
dying. I thought the whole world 
was going to die." (p. 84) 

Forttmately it didn't. The healthy 
oak-hickory-maple complex of the 
hardwood forests we know today 
gradually replaced the great chestnut 
forests in Virginia. Abundance re- 
turned, and deer, turkey, bear, and 
squirrel flourish again in our forests. 
Nevertheless, with the loss of the 
mighty ch^^ut, we lost nearly 
a third of our forests'produc '- 

Ttie family of James and Caroline Shelton 
pose by a large, dead chestnut tree in 
Tremont Falls, Tenn., circa 1920. The tree 
was found to be hollow. 

A lone chestnut snag stands in Big Meadows 
in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. Right 
Illustration by Susan Bull Riley. (Courtesy 
of The American Chestnut Foundation.) ^,^ 

tivity, translating into vital winter 
food for wildlife. The cyclical acorn 
failures we experience today signal 
starvation years for wildlife which 
were unknown in chestnut forests. 
Because the chestnut flowers in June, 
no late frost ever spoiled its reliable 
and abundant harvest of carbohy- 
drate-rich nuts which could support 
high populations of wildlife through 
the harshest of winters. 

These facts have not been lost on 
those who value wildlife. The Na- 
tional Wild Turkey Federation 
(NWTF) is supporting the efforts of 
those dedicated to restoring the 
American chestnut to our landscape. 
"We want to be part of the restoration 
plans," said Robert Abernathy, Direc- 
tor of Agency Programs for the 
NWTF. Backing restoration efforts 
with money and cooperative agree- 
ments, NWTF hopes to involve its 
members in on-the-ground chestnut 
forest restoration work in the future. 
"It's a segment of our natural history 
that's been missiiig for a long time," 
said Abernathy, "and all wildlife will 
benefit from its return." 

Nevertheless, restoring the king- 
pin of our forests has proved a hard 
nut to crack. The microscopic fungus 
blown on a breeze has proved a wor- 
thy opponent to the toughest and 
greatest of our trees and the best and 
brightest of its supporters for nearly a 
century. Today, the blight is firmly es- 
tablished in the southern Appalachi- 
ans, and any American chestnut 
sprout opportunistically pushing its 
stem through the soil in the spring is 
guaranteed to fall victim to it within 
10 years or less. Fortunately, howev- 


Above: The anatomy of an American chestnut tree. Illustration by Bruce Lyndon 
Cunningham, 2001. (Courtesy of The American Chestnut Foundation.) 
Left: American chestnut bur in winter, photo by Kathy Marmet. 

er, the fungus does not kill by attack- 
ing a tree's root system. Instead, it at- 
tacks the bark, killing all living tissue 
above the infection. As a result, 
though felled by the blight or nipped 
off by a passing deer, chestnut 
seedlings continue to exist in our 
forests, persistently sprouting again 
and again for many years. 

Unlike the Chinese chestnut. 

Castmicn moUissima, which has co-ex- 
isted with the blight for thousands of 
years, the American chestnut has not 
yet developed effective blight resist- 
ance. Some large surviving American 
chestnut trees do, however, possess a 
heightened degree of resistance. But 
the toll it takes to battle the blight 
makes them more susceptible to 
drought, deer damage, or a host of 


-y '-^m- 

Or. Gri^n iv/t/? wije Lucille, who directs the American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation. 

other difficulties naturally present in 
the forest enviroiTment. 

Thus, some researchers have de- 
voted their efforts to enlisting the 
Chinese chestnut to help the Ameri- 
can chestnut shore up its defenses. 
Their idea is to perfect an American- 
Chinese chestnut cross through a so- 
phisticated backcross breeding pro- 
gram, which will preserve most of 
the prized characteristics of the pure 
American chestnut while adding the 
essential strong blight resistance trait 
of a Chinese tree. Backcross pro- 
grams of this sort have been perfect- 
ed with agricviltural crops such as 
com. But any type of tree breeding 
program is slow going and slow 
growing. Each successive generation 
of chestnut crosses must be raised to 
maturity (some 5-6 years under the 
best of conditions), tested for blight- 
resistance, and then paired again to 
produce nuts to begin another 5 to 6- 
year cycle. 

The American Chestnut Founda- 
tion (TACF) was formed one-quarter 
of a century ago by a determined 
group of scientists and chestnut 
lovers dedicated to pursuing this 
slow but effective hybridization pro- 
gram at their research sites in south- 
west Virginia. Today, they are grow- 
ing over 34,000 trees of a blight- resist- 
ant variety wliich is but l/16th Chi- 
nese chestiiut and 15/16ths Ameri- 
can chesttiut. 

But even though a blight-resist- 
ant chestnut seedling is planted in the 
woods, it does not mean that it will 
grow. The forest is full of its own com- 
plexities, something Gary Griffin 
knows well from his thousands of 
loggeci hours grouse hunting, cou- 

Middle left: Virulent canl<er on young 
American chestnut tree. Inset: close-up of 
orange pimple-like structures which are the 
stromata of Cryphonectria parasitica. 
(Courtesy of The American Chestnut 

Middle right: Bhght damage is evident, but 
because the fungus does not attack a tree's 
root system, this chestnut will continue to sur- 
vive, sprouting again and again for many 

Left: Griffin and his colleagues have discov- 
ered that a two-time inoculation of young 
trees with a naturally occurring, but weakened 
"hypovirulent" strain of the bhght fungus for- 
tifies the tree's resistance. 


pled with his 40 years of research 
with purebred American chestnuts in 
their natural forest environment. 
Every week. Dr. Griffin and his wife, 
Lucille, and Timber make the three- 
hour drive from their home in Blacks- 
burg to a three-acre clearcut site in the 
middle of the 422-acre Lesesne State 
Forest in Nelson County, land donat- 
ed to the state more than 40 years ago 
specifically for chestnut research. In 
the '80s, the Griffins and a small 
group of like-minded researchers 
formed the American Chestnut Co- 
operators' Foundation (ACCF), dedi- 
cated to the restoration of what Lu- 
cille calls the "All-American chest- 

ACCF's mission is to build up 

location of large surviving chestnuts 
in the forest to strengthen the pro- 
gram's blight-resistant genetic pool, 
and the identification of forest habitat 
well-suited to chestnut growth. Grif- 
fin has found that grouse hunting 
helps fulfill that mission. "Sooner or 
later hunters who spend a lot of time 
in the woods will come across a large 
chestnut survivor. One of the best 
trees in our breeding program I 
found while grouse hunting in Floyd 
County," he says. Griffin carries a 
compass in his pocket — not to find 
his way home, but to add to the criti- 
cal data he gathers when he locates a 
primo chestnut site. 

"Basically, when I'm grouse 
hunting, I'm doing a forest transect as 

ant chestnut seedlings. Griffin ex- 
plains that "blight resistance" is a rel- 
ative term. Chestnuts do not conquer 
the blight; instead, they must be 
tough enough to live with it. 
Through his research. Griffin has 
identified what promising seedlings 
need to carry on the fight and survive 
into mature, reproducing trees in a 
forest environment, including ade- 
quate protection from deer, bear, and 
vole damage in their early years. 
Griffin and his colleagues have also 
discovered that fortifying blight re- 
sistance in pure American chestnuts 
means enlisting the presence of a 
weakened "hypovirulent" strain of 
the blight fungus, which they have 
found existing naturallv in mature 

Researchers with the National Wild Turkey Federation and The American Chestnut Foundation 
(with president of Va. Chapter, George Thompson, right) cooperate in many areas of study. 

A healthy American chestnut tree in Tennessee. 
Pollen from this tree has been used in The 
American Chestnut Foundation's breeding program. 

the naturally low blight resistance in 
pure American chestnuts through its 
cross-breeding program with large 
surviving trees, while simultaneous- 
ly fimding research to better under- 
stand the dynamics between the 
American chestnut, the blight, and 
the forest ecology in which they both 
exist. "It is an integrated manage- 
ment approach," explains Griffin, 
whose research philosophy was in- 
fluenced by his work as an under- 
graduate in wildlife management at 
the University of Alaska. "The 
wildlife management connection is 
important to me." 

Key to the ACCF's strategy is the 

well," he said. "I spend 90% of the 
time grouse hunting and 10% look- 
ing for chestnuts." Griffin once found 
a premier restoration site as well 
while hunting — a clearcut with old 
chestnut stumps of a diameter and in 
a density that wowed even this veter- 
an chestnut researcher. He returned 
to the site, gained permission to es- 
tablish seedlings there, and now 
says, "They're growing like gang- 
busters. It's a terrific site." 

Griffin has found that aspect, 
slope, direction, and the quality and 
composition of the forest habitat are 
key elements to ensuring the survival 
of even the strongest of blight-resist- 

survivors. Their studies reveal that a 
two-time inoculation of young trees 
with this weakened strain improves 
their survival dramatically. 

As executive director of ACCF, 
Lucille oversees their breeding pro- 
gram, including horticulture and 
grafting procedures perfected by J.R. 
Elkins in cooperation with now-re- 
tired VDOF research forester Tom 
Dierauf. Lucille sends out blight-re- 
sistant nuts to 850 cooperating 
landowners to plant each fall, and 
compiles follow-up reports on 
seedling survival. "What we have is a 
huge outdoor laboratory where 
we're learning as we go how to raise 


chestnuts in the wild environment," 
says Lucille. "Basically what I've 
learned so far from doing this is that 
it's a very difficult job." 

Half a mile down the road from 
the Griffins' ACCF research site, Vir- 
ginia state foresters Wayne Bowman, 
John Scrivani, and Jerre Creighton 
are 30 feet high in the lift of a Depart- 
ment of Forestry "bucket truck," 
swaying in the treetops of Lesesne's 
40-year-old hybrid American chest- 
nut plantation. Reaching into a tree's 
canopy for a single dark green, 
glossy-leaved limb. Bowman locates 
the tiny green nub resembling a 
Thumbelina-sized artichoke at the 
base of each leaf. Because chestnut 
trees are not self-pollinating as a rule. 

American chestnut in full blossom. (Courtesy 
of The American Chestnut Foundation.) 

it is possible to control breeding 
crosses through hand pollination. 
Bowman gently waves a 3-inch stem 
of fluffy pollen over each flower be- 
fore slipping a small white paper bag 
over the blossom cluster and wrap- 
ping it tight. Two months from now, 
the bags will come off and the prickly 
burrs protecting the cluster pop open 
to reveal three nuts inside. Carefully 
packed in peat moss and refrigerated 
over the winter, each nut that VDOF 
plants in the spring represents a 
small, shiny, tough little bundle of 

There is no doubt that those who 
have refused to allow the loss of the 


mighty American chestnut to remain 
one of the great ecological tragedies 
of our time are a tenacious lot. Like 
the chestnut seedlings persistently 
sprouting each spring against all 
odds, they have refused to give up 
the fight. Now, finally, a harvest of 
sorts may be near. 

Over the past 20 years, ACCF 
has sent out 140,000 open-polli- 
nated seedlings and nuts to 
their cooperators. VDOF 
has planted 600 hybrid 
chestnut seedlings in 
forests throughout the 
state; their nurseries 
hold 8,000 ^ 
seedlings, and x^ ' 
thousands of ^**** 
nuts have been planted in 
their nurseries since the 1960s. In 
2008, the 6,000-member strong TACF 
aiinounced the monumental achieve- 
ment of their hybrid backcross breed- 
ing goals. They will soon begin--ref 
estation trials on national forest sites 
with blight-resistant, 94% pure 
American chestnut seedlings. George 
Thompson, president of the Virginia 
Chapter of TACF, whose late father 
was a DGIF board member for whom 
the G. Richard Thompson WMA in 
Fauquier County is named, is justly 
optimistic. "In 25 years, TACF has 
shown that the American chestnut 
can be saved, and within the next 25 
years Virginia will see the reintroduc- 
tion of this wonderful tree into our 

Still, whether or not we will ever 
be able to walk again through a chest- 
nut forest in the Appalachians re- 
mains a vision of epic proportion. It 
continues to beckon the best and the 
brightest and the most tenacious 
lovers of wildlife and one mighty 
tree. D 

Virginia Sluyiierd is a former editor of Virginia 
Wildlife magazine. Sliehas been a freelance writer 
for tiw past 12 years. 


American Chestnut: The Life. Death, ami Re- 
birth of a Perfect Tree, by Susiui Freinkel Pub- 
lished by the University of Cjilifoniia Press, 2007. 

Mighty Giants. An American Chestnut Antljol- 
og}\ edited by Chris Bolgiiuio and Glenn Novak. 
Published by The ,\niericiui Chestnut Foundii- 
tion, 2007. (aviiilable from www.vatacf org) 

Blighted American chestnut with chickadees and 
lichen. Illustration by Susan Bull Riley. (Courtesy 
of The American Chestnut Foundation.) 


Aniericiui Chestnut Cooperators' Foundation 

Lucille Griffin, pAecutive Director 

Forest Service Road 708 

Newport, VA 24128 

The Americsin Chestnut Foundation, 

Virginia Chapter 

George R. Thompson, President VA-TACF 

P.O. Box 868 


Phone: 540-364-0364 


It's Never Too Late 

f i^iklu 

by Curtis Badger 

Violet Mears got the perfect Moth- 
er's Day present last May. It was 
a lightweight, pop-up, camou- 
flage deer stand courtesy of her son, 
Lennie. Earlier, Violet's husband, 
O.W., had given her a new scope for 
the .30/ .30. By the time her next birth- 
day rolls around, she should be well 
equipped for the fall season. 

Violet's next birthday will be her 
79th, and the remarkable thing is not 
just that she remains an enthusiastic 
deer hunter on the cusp of her ninth 
decade, but she is a relative novice at 
the sport. At age 75, Violet decided 
that deer hunting was not intended 
for men only, so she completed a 
hunter safety class, got her license, 
and shortly thereafter bagged her 
first deer. Since then, she has taken a 
deer each season, including a nice 
buck in 2006. 

"All the men in my family hunt, 
and I got sick and fired of sitfing in 
the house while they were out, cook- 


Tired of staying at 
home while everyone 

went hunting, 

Violet Mears decided 

to take up the sport 

at age 75. 

ing supper for everybody," she says. 
"So I told them, 'you stay home and 
I'll go.'" 

Violet's decision to take up deer 
hunting was warmly embraced by 
the men of the Mears family. They 
live on a farm near the town of Park- 
sley on Virginia's Eastern Shore, and 
going deer hunting is literally a mat- 
ter of walking out the back door and 
going to the deer stand. Although Vi- 
olet has hunted in nvmierous loca- 
fions since taking up the sport, her fa- 
vorite spot is the family farm, in the 
field behind the old chicken house, 
adjacent to the cutover pine woods. It 
was here that she bagged her first 
deer, an accomplishment duly 
recorded in the family scrapbook. 

The Mears' land is a working 
farm, but it is better known among 
local people as the home of the Barn- 

Violet in front of her deer stand, built 
s by husband 0. W. from an industrial 
u trash receptacle. 

Violet and 0. W. Hears, shown here in front of a former chicken house which served 
for many years as the site of their barnyard auction business. 

yard Auction, a business operated for 
many years by O.W. and Violet until 
they decided to retire in 2000. The 
auctions became a Friday evening 
staple on the Eastern Shore: a combi- 
nation of entertainment and antiques 
roadshow, where visitors might take 
a number and bid on everything 
from garden tools to handmade an- 
tique furniture. In addition to the 
auction, there were hamburgers, hot 
dogs, and Violet's famous home- 
made cakes. 

The auctions were held in one of 
the former chicken houses on the 
farm — a low slung, narrow building 
about 100 yards long. O.W. built a 
moveable platform mounted on rails, 
where he presided as auctioneer. The 
auction would begin at the east end 
of the chicken house, with sale items 
displayed on either side of the plat- 
form, and as the auction progressed 
the platform would slowly make its 
way west down the center of the 
building. At the end of the evening 
the platform would have reached the 
end of the line, and the sale was ad- 

The auction building now is 
something of a warehouse for the 
Mears family, storing, among other 
things, the variety of deer stands 

O.W. has made for Violet. O.W., who 
is 83, is still an enthusiastic hunter, 
but he also has a talent for making 
deer stands from objects that never 
were intended for that use. 

For example, Violet made her 
first kill from an inverted plastic con- 
tainer originally intended as an in- 
dustrial trash receptacle. O.W. 
bought the box, which measures 
about three by five feet, turned it over 
and mounted it on skids, cut out 
openings for windows, painted it 
drab, and mounted a gun rack inside. 
Violet now has a snug, weatherproof 
blind that has provided hours of 
comfortable hunting. 

Another stand was made from 
the salvaged wire safety cage of a 
Bobcat loader. O.W. bought the cage 
at auction for a song, inverted it, 
mounted it on skids, built a plywood 
roof, added canvas side curtains, and 
created another portable blind that 
could be towed to any location on the 

O.YJ. has been very supportive of 
his wife's new-found love of hunting. 
He not only has built numerous 
stands, but he usually provides trans- 
portation to and from the hunting 
area on the red ATV parked in the 
garage. He'll drop Violet off around 4 

p.m. and pick her up at dark. She 
hunted sixteen days last season. 

While O.W. gave Violet a few 
pointers when she began hunting, he 
rarely accompanies her in the deer 
stand. "He went with me a few times 
when I first started and told me what 
to do," says Violet, "but eventually I 
told him to stay home. He talks too 

Violet's weapon of choice is the 
single shot .30/. 30 they gave to their 
son, Lennie, when he was eight years 
old and wanted to start hunting. "We 
had it cut down to fit a young person, 
and Violet is very comfortable with 
it," says O.W. "That rifle has been 
used by many a young person who 
was just starting. We loaned it out 
many, many times." 

While Violet has taken three deer 
in three years, she says the excitement 
of the hunt does not come from the 
kill. "I just don't get excited by it," she 
says. "I watch hunting shows on TV 
and someone shoots a deer and 
they're jumping up and down with 
excitement, but that doesn't happen 
for me. I like to eat venison. I think it's 
good for you, a good source of pro- 
tein, so I'm thankful when I take a 
deer. But I enjoy being out there by 
myself. I see all kinds of things: foxes, 
st]uirrels, birds. I love the birds. One 
day I heard all this noise behind my 
stand and it was several deer just a 
few feet away. One was right at the 
door. If I'd shot it I wouldn't have 
been able to get out." 

With the new season approach- 
ing, Violet had a decision to make. 
Would she stick with O.W.'s custom- 
made deer stands, or would she try 
out the new, lightweight pop-up? Vio- 
let set up the pop-up in the backyard 
and took a little teasing about having 
just stepped out of the Cabela's cata- 
log, but she clearly liked the ease with 
which the stand could be moved and 
set up. The deer season is long in east- 
ern Virginia, and there is plenty of 
time to try all sorts of options. Which 
stand would Violet use this year? "All 
of them," she replied with a laugh. D 

Curtis Badger, wliosc most recent book is ANatural 
Historv' of Quiet Waters (UVA Press), has written 
n'ideh/ nbout natural history and wildlife art. He 
lives on Virginia's Eastern Shore. 






Hunters, hound dogs, and a cabin provided a youngster 
with an education to last a lifetime. 




rom Richmond, 
Virginia head east 
until the air gets 
thick and humid and 
smells of salt and marsh; 
you're getting close. 
When the tires quit 
whining on asphalt 
and start squish- 
squishing in sand, 
you're almost there. 
Stop, get out, and 
continue walking 
east. When you're 
about ankle deep 
in water, mud, 
and muck, go an- 
other few yards and 
you've arrived! 
Welcome to Wroblick's Huntin' 
House. The men who hung around it 
and the hound dogs that were among 
my best friends all helpetl raise me in the 
swamps of eastern Virginia over 50 years 
ago. This is their and my story about 
deer hunting and kid raising. 

We'd meet every hunt day long be- 
fore daylight in the huntin' house. At 
one time, the house was white — I could 
tell from the bits of white paint stub- 
bornly hanging onto the weathered 
bare siding. It was small, with one 
rather large room that was the gather- 
ing site for the day. 

Close your eyes and walk with me 
into that room and let your smell and 
hearing guide the way. First, your nose 
picks up memory-generating scents of 
damp wool, wet dog fur, and gun clean- 
ing solvent. Then, your hearing detects 
wind rattling around loose window 
panes, the wood stove sucking in air as 
it heats the house, coffee boiling on the 
wood stove, and men telling stories to 
each other. 

Open your eyes and you'll see 
about 10 men sitting around and one 
sandy-haired kid curled around the 
wood stove (me). This was one of my fa- 
vorite times of the day. Stories that 
everyone knows are only partially true 
are flying everywhere. 

We hunted paper mill lands or 
local farms; but all of them contained 
significant swamps, and the difficul- 
ty of hunting in the ever-present 
marshes was our argument for using 
dogs to chase the deer out to where 
we could get to them. That practice 
and those packs of hounds define a 
whole culture that was extremely im- 
portant to me then and still is to 
many. Today, I choose to hunt my 
deer with a recvirve bow and black 
powder rifle, but I would fight to 
save that culture. Somewhere today, 
there's another huntin' house or two 
with kids in it that will become the 
next Archibald Rutledge, Havila Bab- 
cock, Sigurd Olsson, Adolph 
Leopold, or another of our outdoor, 
naturalist literature. Even Henry 
David Thoreau said the best way to 
raise a naturalist is to start him hunt- 
ing anci fishing. 

That particular day we had cho- 

The Wrobb'ck family at the time consisted 
of (my best memory) a mother and 
father who came over from Poland and 
spoke only broken English and three 
sons: Steve, Joe, and John. Mom and 
Dad Wroblick made their living from 
vegetable farming, helping with the deer 
hunts, and by cleaning and repairing 
floating seine nets that were used in the 
spring to harvest spawning white and 
hickory shad and anadromous stripers. 
The sons, along with Dad and other 
locals, organized the hunts. The sons 
were John, often wearing riding pants 
and leather boots (above, right), Joe, 
who ran a local diner when he wasn't 
hunting (center, holding dog), and 
Steve (kneeling left between Joe and 
the deer). Steve and Dad worked at the 
local paper mill and were inseparable 
during hunting season. 

sen to hunt Olsson's farm, so we 
loaded the dogs and drove to the site. 
We stopped and released about a 
dozen dogs. There were Walkers, 
Blue Ticks, Black and Tans, Red 
Bones, and about every combination 
or permutation thereof. Ancestral lin- 
eage was often determined by hap- 
penstance rather than by careful 

There' d be a three-legged dog in 
the bunch along with a one-eyed 
hound, and many of the dogs would 
carry other battle scars. Dogs would 
run around everywhere, emptying 
bladders and bowels. After the run- 
ning around was over, Td get on one 
knee, and the dogs — knowing this 
kid was good for an ear rub and 
maybe even a butt scratch — would 
come to me. They were among my 
best friends anci they knew it. 

We (people) would scatter 
around the farm on old roads. The 
farms might run from 100 acres to 
several thousand; this farm was very 
large. One driver would start the 
dogs. He would bellow in the 
swamp, sounding more like a dog 
than the dogs themselves, but it was 
easy to tell him from the rest by the 
skill with which he called out to the 

dogs. Often, he directed his spirited 
remarks at indivitiual dogs that did- 
n't think running deer was the num- 
ber one priority of the day. 

Soon, several of the dogs would 
bark cold trail, which was a less than 
enthusiastic statement they had 
smelled a deer. Over the next 30 min- 
utes to several hours, depending on 
scenting conditions and the IQ of the 
deer, that cold trail bark would turn 
into a hot trail bark which had more 
enthusiasm, like a verb finding its di- 
rect object; then, a running bark 
telling us the scent was fresh and they 
knew the deer was moving; and fi- 
nally, a running by sight bark. This 
latter bark carried excitement and joy. 
There is no mistaking this one, as it 
sends chill bumps up the spine of all 
who hear it. The melody of a dozen 
hounds running a deer or coon by 
sight is one of the most thrilling 
sounds ever heard (read Wlicre the 
Red Fern Groios). Yes, you can tell all 
those sounds after awhile and even 
which dogs are making them. That's 
an important part of the culture. 

A deer running through the 
woods makes a noise that is very dis- 
tinctive, even unmistakable. That 
day, I heard the deer coming toward 


My father quit school when he was 12 
years old to help support the family, as 
he was the eldest and this was the norm 
in Appalachia where he lived. He came 
out of Appalachia with traps on his 
shoulder, a gun under his arm, towing a 
floating seine (net). He never lost that 
thrill of the han/est or the psychological 
need to be out there. This was the mid- 
1930s and those were hard times. My 
brother was born in 1933 and I was born 
in 1 942. We were very fortunate to have 
grown up in Mom and Dad's home, and 
we never once went to bed hungry. 

In the picture, Dad is standing on 
the left of the deer, holding an antler 
(check out those brow tines). In the 
picture are my two grandfathers, stand- 
ing on the far left (I think). Grandpa 
Connelly (my mother's side) always car- 
ried a lawn chair for deer drives, and he 
made a great wing bone turkey call. I'd 
pay a bunch of money for one of his calls 
today. Grandpa Turner shot a double 
barrel Davis that I still own. It now has 
a new stock (had to do it); but I don't 
use it, for old times' sake. I do fondle it 
periodically and always keep it cleaned 
and oiled. 

me. Down on one knee to see under 
the trees better, I was looking hard for 
the deer but he ran on by me (proba- 
bly heard my racing heart) down to- 
ward my father. Dad visibly stiff- 
ened, put his old square forearmed 
Browning to his shoulder, and I saw 
smoke. A few seconds later, I heard 
the shot. Dad lowered the gun and 
walked into the woods; not many 
deer ever escaped if he shot. 

Paying homage to the fallen ani- 
mal is something I pride myself on 
today; but in those days, we'd gut the 
deer, put him in the truck and go do it 
again. At the end of the day, we'd go 
back to Wroblick's and skin him. 

There was a skinning tree and a 
skinning shed for bad weather. The 
sidebars describe the hunting party, 
but don't hold me to accuracy as 
many years have passed. Of course, 
this part was very social, and the 
meat was shared among all parties. 
In the picture on page 14 are my fa- 
ther's father, my mother's father, the 
other men that helped raise me. Dad, 
a dog, and the deer. Of all my out- 
door pictures, this is my favorite. 

This is when I learned that ham- 
burger or steak was once a living 

brown-eyed creature and not some- 
thing born in a plastic package at the 
grocery store. Because of this up- 
bringing, I never was bothered with 
gore and blood. 

We'd go home with our meat, 
put it in a freezer, eat supper, relive 
the day and I'd go to bed. Sometimes, 
it'd still be daylight, but most times 
I'd last until after supper and sunset. 
The next day, we'd do it again. 

And that's the way it was at 
Wroblick's Huntin' House. D 

Wayne Turner lives in Fairplay, Colorado, 
with his wife of 40 years and more shotguns 
and fly rods than any man should have. He 
was raised in tJie swamps of eastern Virginia 
by a dad who was of the old hwiter-gatherer 
type. He had a storybook childhood, as this 
story attempts to convey. "Thanks Steve, 
John, Joe, Ham/, Ken, Mom and, especially. 

Editor's Note: 

Wliile UK' acknoivledge that hunting 
with hounds has become a sensitive 
issue for nmny Virginians, tins story 
captures an important piece of our col- 
lective hunting heritage. For this rea- 
son, zue believe it's important to tell. 



_^ Game Bird 


erhaps no 
state in 
the coun- 
try is more proud of its 
hunting traditions than 
Virginia, and no form of 
hunting in Virginia is more 
traditional than quail hunt- 
ing. Native son and famous 
author Havilah Babcock often 
wrote about chasing the "Prince 
of Game Birds" when he was a 
youngster, through the fields of 
Appomattox. It is no secret that Coli- 
nus virgiiiiniiiis, more commonly 
known as the bobwhite or quail, has had a 
tough go of it lately. Tales told by our 
grandfathers of staunch alabaster pointers 
and setters standing firm on point in some 
bean field or thicket seem like ancient histo- 
ry to some of us. However, the Virginia De- 
partment of Game and Inland Fisheries has 
been diligent in its efforts to bring back the 
quail population. It also has been helpful in 
showing quail hunters where in Virginia 
they can still step back into time. 

Virginia is fortunate to have many pri- 
vate hunting preserves throughout the 
state that offer a chance to hunt "the way it 
used to be." Preserves also take the pres- 
sure off natural quail and can act as an ex- 
cellent training ground for a young pup. 
Most hunters agree that a bircl ciog learns 
much faster when it has the opportunity to 
see a large number of coveys. The pre- 
serves are strategically placed so one can 

take a son or daughter hunting and also 
take advantage of other points of interest 
along the scenic byways of our state. One 
could, on a crisp fall morning, enjoy an 
early morning pheasant hunt and tour the 
wine country of the Blue Ricige the same 
afternoon. You can have your dogs point- 
ing quail, then take the family to relive the 
history of Williamsburg and Jamestown 
during the same weekend. There are a 
number of hunting preserves near such 
noteworthy venues as Monticello, Mont- 
pelier, the Homestead, Lexington, and 

Virginia's hunting preserves offer a 
variety of opportunities and services for 
the sports-minded. Your family can hunt 
at preserves offering additional resort-like 
amenities such as tennis courts, skeet and 
sporting clay ranges, golf courses, fishing 
spots, and fine dining. Some locations 
may provide overiiight accommodations 
and others, just the basic no-frills hunt. 
Several preserves offer the outdoors per- 
son a chance to hunt birds not usually 
found in Virginia, such as pheasant and 

Finding a good hunting preserve in 
Virginia is like discovering a good Virginia 
wine— you don't have to pay a fortune to 
enjoy one. The Virginia Department of 
Game and Inland Fisheries can help you 
research the kind of hunt you want to ex- 
perience. Whichever type of preserve you 
choose, a good preserve should offer strong 
flying birds at a reasonable price. □ 

Hunting Pre5<[ 

1 Shenandoah 

Falls Run Farm and Shooting Preserve 

Z rauquier 

Shady Grove Kennel and Hunting Preserve, Inc. 

3 bath 

Hunters Paradise Hunting Preserve 

4 Huvanna 

Winter Haven Game Farm and Preserve 

5 SpotsLjIvania 

Forest Green Shooting Preserve 

6 Essex 
Blandfield Lodge 

/ Al levant) 

Mountain View Wingshooting, Inc. 

8 Nelson 
The Orion Estate 

9 Nelson 
Oak Ridge Game Pr( ; 

10 Goochland 
Orapax Plantation i 

11 Amelia 'f 
Sleepy Oaks Farm 

12 Chadotte 

Feathers-Fur & Fin Kti 


Hunting Preserves 
offer the following: 

The season runs from 
September 1 to April 30. 
Hunting on Sundays is allowed. 

Usually the minimum hunt will be 
one person for a half -day hunt 

A Ithough many hunting preserves 
offer trained bird dogs and a 
guide for a fee, most allow you to 
bring your own dog if you choose. 

n/es in Virginia 

13 Lunenburg 
V Bacon's Bird Preserve 

14 Sussex 
Sussex Shooting Sports 

15 Patnck 
Primland Resort 

16 PittsLjIvania 

uii Hunting Preserve White Oak Mountain Hunting Lodge 

17 charlotte 

Sandy Creek Shooting Preserve 

1 o Mecklenburg 

White Oaks Hunting Preserve and Shooting Sports 

ly Mecklenburg 

South Bound Sporting Preserve 

20 Sussex 

Hunts Game/Training Preserve 

21 Isle of Wight 
Sportsman Hunting Preserve 



Hunting Preserves in Virginia 


Mountain View Wingshooting, Inc. 

4601 Hayes Gap Road 

Covington, VA 24426 

E-mail: Wingshooter@mtnviewwingshoot- 


Bobwhite quail, chukar, ringneck pheasant, 

Hungarian partridge 


Sleepy Oaks Farm 

13111 Reed Rock Road 

Amelia Court House, VA 23002 



Bobwhite quail, chukar, ringneck pheasant 


Hunters Paradise Hunting Preserve 

6760 Deerfield Road 

Millboro,VA 24460 

(540) 996-4134 or (540) 969-6561 

E-Mail: huntersparadise(f''tds. net 

Bobwhite cjuail, chukar, ringneck pheasant, 

Hungarian partridge 


Sandy Creek Shooting Preserve 

205 Sportsman Lane 

Red Oak, VA 23964 


Bobwhite quail, chukar, ringneck pheasant 

Feathers-Fur & Fin Kennels Hunting 

1975 Highway 59 

Keysville,VA 23947 


E-mail: fffkennelsC' 

Bobwhite quail, chukar, ringneck pheasant 

Blandfield Lodge 

10001 Patterson Ave, Suite 100 
Richmond, VA 23238 
Quail Hunts: (540) 229-8045 
Waterfowl Hunts: (804) 731-3562 
Bobwhite quail, ringneck pheasant 


Shady Grove Kennel and Hunting 
Preserve, Inc. 

11986 Lucky Hill Road 

Remington, VA 22734 


Bobwhite quail, chukar, ringneck pheasant, 

Hungarian partridge, dove 


Winter Haven Game Farm and Preserve 

1420 Indiana Avenue 

Woodbridge,VA 22191 

30 Miles South West of High Point Marina, 

Lake Anna 

Day: (703) 725-7926 

Evening: (703) 494-2081 



Bobwhite quail, chukar, ringneck pheasant 

Orapax Plantation 

3831 River Road West 

Goochland, VA 23063 

(804) 556-2261 or (804) 556-6585 


Bobwhite quail, ringneck pheasant 

Isle of Wight 

Sportsman Hunting Preserve 

30304 Outland Drive 



E-mail: sportsmanship(S' 

Bobwhite quail, chukar, ringneck pheasant 

Bacon's Bird Preserve 

2978 Bacon Fork Rd. 

Kenbridge,VA 23944 



Bobwhite quail 


White Oaks Hunting Preserve and 
Shooting Sports 

18014 Highway 49 North 

Skipwith,VA 23968 


E-mail: andrewrjones^ 

Bobwhite quail, chukar, ringneck pheasant, 

Hungarian partridge 

South Bound Sporting Preserve 

1029 Drycreek Road 

South Hill, VA 23970 


E-mail: quail&' 

Bobwhite quail, chukar, ringneck pheasant 


Oak Ridge Game Preserve 

2300 Oak Ridge Road 

Arrington,VA 22922 


E-mail: info(?'' 

Bobwhite quail, chukar, ringneck pheasant 

The Orion Estate 

RO. Box 8027 

Charlottesville, VA 22906 

E-mail: infof' 


Bobwhite quail, ringneck pheasant 


Primland Resort 

4621 Busted Rock Road 

Meadows of Dan, VA 24120 

(866) 960-7746 or (276) 222-3800 

Bobwhite quail, chukar, ringneck pheasant, 

Hungarian partridge 


White Oak Mountain Hunting Lodge 

455 Easts Store Lane 

Chatham, VA 24531 

Toll free (888) 432-4868 


Bobwhite quail, chukar, ringneck pheasant, 

Hungarian partridge 


Falls Run Farm and Shooting Preserve 

471 Bowers Lane 

Edinburg,VA 22824 


Bobwhite quail, chukar, ringneck pheasant, 

Hungarian partridge 


Forest Green Shooting Preserve 

RO. Box 38 

Partlow,VA 22534 

(540) 582-2566 

Bobwhite quail, chukar, ringneck pheasant 


Hunts Game/Training Preserve 

5142 Hunt Road 

Jarratt,VA 23867 



Bobwhite quail, chukar, ringneck pheasant 

Sussex Shooting Sports 

570 Soutl-ipark Blvd. 

Colonial Heights, VA 23834 



Bobwhite quail, ringneck pheasant 

(Introduction by Clarke C. Jones) 





Virginia Department of Game and Inland rishen'es 



story and illustrations 
by Spike Knuth 

lying with fast-whirring wings in straight-away flight, they often make 
wide, sweeping turns. In flight their heads are compressed, looking very 
narrow with their stick-like bill. They inhabit the swamps, wooded marshes, 

tree-edged ponds and lakes, river mouths into 

the salty waters of the Chesapeake, and the 

^ X big tidal rivers where water turns fresh. 

-O \ \ They are the mergansers, often called fish 

ducks or sawbills. 






tl /^ 1 


il i/niUi 


Mooded . 


Virginia has tliree kinds of mer- 
gansers; the hooded, which is the 
smallest; the red-breasted, which is 
medium sized; and the common, or 
American, which is the largest. Mer- 
gansers have narrow, cylindrical bills 
that have fine serrated or sawtooth 
edges that angle backward, giving 
rise to the nickiiame, "sawbill," or 
"bee scie," as it is known in Cajun 
Louisiana. Toothy edges enable them 

to catch and grasp slippery fish — 
their main diet and the reason they 
are referred to as fish ducks. 

These birds are excellent swim- 
mers and divers and very quick un- 
derwater. They literally fly through 
the water using their wings as well as 
their feet. They are also skittish when 
you come near them on the water, 
arid must run for a short distance to 
get airborne. Conversely, they are not 

very mobile on land. With legs and 
feet set far back on their bodies, they 
often teeter onto their breast, and 
have to push themselves forward on 
land with feet kicking in a half walk, 
half push metliod. 

Other than size and of course col- 
ors and markings, the three mer- 
ganser types are somewhat separat- 
ed by their favored habitat. Hooded 
mergansers tend to like swampy or 
tree-edged marshes, lakes and 
ponds, although you will see them in 
open water or backwater sloughs of 
tidal rivers, but mainly in fresh or 
brackish waters. Red- 
breasted mergansers 
have a definite affinity 
for saltier waters and 



are common off the ocean coasts in 
winter, but will come into the bigger 
rivers and river mouths. You can 
often see them off the Chesapeake 
Bay Bridge-Tunnel or at Kiptopeke 
State Park on the Eastern Shore. 
Common mergansers seem to prefer 
the big open water of tidal rivers far- 
ther inland where the water is 
fresh. In fact, in some years 
only a few of them ven- 
ture this far south. 



(Lophodi/tes cuciiUntiis) 

The hooded merganser is the small- 
est of the three and the most common 
wintering merganser in Virginia. It 
enjoys a host of colorful local names, 
including swamp sheldrake, tree 
sawbill, fan-crested duck, water 
pheasant, pheasant duck, rounci- 
crested duck, fuzzy head, hairy head- 
ed teal, shagpoll, and cottonhead. 
This bird prefers the timbered waters, 
slow-moving rivers, quiet swamps, 
calm ponds, marsh sloughs, and lake 


coves in different habitats, including 
fresh, brackish, and saltwater areas. 
Look for them in the salt marshes of 
the Eastern Shore, where they are 
quite common. 

Hooded mergansers are about 17 
to 18 inches long and weigh about 1 '/^ 
pounds. The male hooded is black 
above and white below, with light. 


rufous-brown sides, finely waved 
with dark brown or black. It has two 
black hash marks on its forward 
sides. Its most outstanding feature is 
its semi-circular white crest, edged in 
black, which can be opened and 
closed like a fan. These are especially 
noticeable during spring courtship, 
when opened and depressed to im- 
press a female. 

In flight, the crest is depressed 
into a narrow white line behind the 
eye, head narrowed, and carrieci 
maybe even a little below body level. 
Sometimes its rapidly beating wings 
emit a quiet whistling sound. Both 
sexes show a lot of flashing white 

from their wing speculums. The fe- 
male is basically brownish-gray with 
a brown head and a fuzzy, cinnamon- 
tinted crest. 

Hooded mergansers are Vv'ary 
and alert, usually found in pairs or 
small flocks of 5 to 8 birds. In winter 
the whole group may be all males 
but, as spring approaches, 1 or 2 fe- 
males may join them. They swim 
about buoyantly, sometimes forming 
a feeding line as they dive almost in 
imison for small fish and other aquat- 
ic critters. They will land with a big, 
sliding splash and swim inshore to 
feed. When startled, they reverse the 
process, swimming outward before 
taking flight. The hooded merganser 
requires a short runway and gets into 
flight quickly by running. 

The hooded merganser breeds 
maiiily in forested regions of eastern 
Canada and the northeastern United 
States. Although a few breed in the 
south Atlantic, they generally nest 
farther north. They begin moving 
north about mid-February, even be- 
fore most of the ice breaks up on lakes 
and rivers. Main flights take place in 
March and early April. They again 
orient to the wooded swamps or 

forests near water and nest in tree 
cavities or rotting snags, much like 
the wood duck. 

In Virginia, look for hooded mer- 
gansers on the York River and along 
the Colonial Parkway, as well as the 
Potomac, Rappahannock, Mat- 
taponi, Pamunkey, and Piankatank 
rivers. You may also see them in the 
Hog Island Wildlife Management 
Area, and any wooded lakes like 
Briery Creek, Chickahominy Reser- 
voir, and numerous inland lakes and 
out-of-the-way swamps. 

Mecl-oreaslecl Merganser 
(Mergits serrator) 

The red-breasted merganser is a little 
larger than the hooded, with a longer 
neck, head, and bill. It shows a lot of 
white on its wings in flight. The adult 
male has a double-crested, metallic- 
green head, a red bill, a white neck 
collar, and a reddish-brown breast 
marked with black and white, white 
flanks, and a dark back. The hen is 
dressed in browns and grays. She has 
a double-crested, reddish-brown 

head blending to a white chin and 
throat. This merganser has a red bill 
and feet. 

These mergansers favor salt 
water and most are seen on the 
ocean. They are fairly abundant in 
the bays and estuaries of the seaside 
Eastern Shore throughout the winter 
months. However, many will come 
up the big tidal rivers: the lower York, 
Potomac, Rappahannock, and Pi- 
ankatank, or spend time in brackish 
marshes and bays. Most of them trav- 
el farther south to winter off Florida. I 
recall one year seeing a flock of what 
must have been 2 or 3 thousand, win- 
tering in the Gulf of Mexico off Des- 
tin, Florida. They fly low over the 
water, often in a line, but sometimes 
in undisciplined bunches. When on 
migration, they fly at greater heights. 

Many red-breasted mergansers 
stage in the Chesapeake Bay in Vir- 
ginia in February and March, where 
good numbers can be seen from the 
Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Most will head 
north in March and April. They gen- 
erally nest farther north than other 
mergansers, near freshwater lakes or 

>l n in 

.onumoin i'lerganser 

rivers, in upturned tree roots or drift- 
wood, or overhanging shoreline veg- 
etation. They are at home in moving 
water and frequently feed in fast- 
moving rivers. 

'Lomjmoii Merganser 
(Mergus merganser) 

The common, or American, mer- 
ganser is the largest of our mer- 
gansers and routinely winters in the 
north around the New England 
coasts, the upper Mississippi Valley, 
and the Great Lakes. It, too, likes to 
feed in fast-flowing waters, especial- 
ly in dam tailraces and below rapids 
and waterfalls, probably because fish 
are also drawn to these places to feed 
on aquatic insects, and smaller fish 
are swept into these areas. Common 
mergansers resemble the cormorant 
when feeding and resemble the loon 
in flight. 

Also known as the gossander or 
sheldrake, common mergansers 
measure up to 17 inches and weigh 3 
pounds. Their size makes taking off a 
little more difficult, and they need a 
good run to get airborne. Sometimes 
they'll use a fast current to help them 
get up to speed. 

The male is basically black and 
white above, with black wings and 
white speculums. Its underside is 
white, with a light buffy or rusty 
stained area down the center of its 
breast and belly. Its blackish head 
shines a dark, glossy green when the 
light hits it right, which contrasts 
with its carmine red bill and feet. The 
female is gray above and white 
below, with white wing speculums 
and a reddish-brown head that has a 
well-defined white chin and tliroat. 

The common merganser breeds 
along our northern tier of states and 
in Canada, from coast to coast, nest- 
ing in hollow trees, rock crevices on 
the ground, under drooping vegeta- 
tion, and sometimes in old buildings. 

In Virginia, common mergansers 
may be found in the upper portions 
of the Rappahannock River around 
Port Royal, as well as the Potomac 
River in Westmoreland Coun- 
ty. Of course you might see 
any of them on one of the 
many tidal rivers, 
creeks, bays, lakes 

and ponds throughout the Northern 
Neck and the Middle Pemnsula, from 
November to April. D 

Spike Kniith is an avid naturalist and zvildlife 
artist. For over 30 i/enrs his artwork and writing 
have appeared in Virginia Wildlife. Spike is also a 
member oftlie Virginia Outdoor Writers Associa- 

Be Wild! Live Wild! Grow Wild! is a reg- 
ular feature that highlights Virginia's 
Wildlife Action Plan, which is designed 
to unite natural resources agencies, 
sportsmen and women, conservation- 
ists and citizens in a common vision 
for the conservation of the Common- 
wealth's wildlife and habitats in which 
they live. To learn more or to become 
involved with this new program visit: 





y J \ yNaturally 



Above: More in the bin means less in the 
landfill. Below: Reduce, reuse, recycle — 
and no littering! 

Rivers Edge 

Elementary School 

is going green! 

story and photos by Gail Brown 

Trying to find out who started 
recycling at Rivers Edge Ele- 
mentary School (REES) is 
more fun than asking "Who's on 
first?" No matter who you talk to, 
you wind up with "I don't know!" 
Perhaps it's serendipity, but the kids, 
the staff, and the PTA all seemed to 
have had the same idea at the same 
time: Let's recycle at Rivers Edge. 

While great ideas originate from 
many sources, once in place they're 
like flashers at a worksite. The entire 
community is alerted: Slow down — 
construction ahead! What's being 
built at Rivers Edge, an exemplary 
Virginia Naturally school program in 
Henrico County, reflects the values 
the community believes important, 
and sparks are flying everywhere. 

Special programs require muscle 
as well as materials. At Rivers Edge 
the PTA and Student Council Associ- 
ation (SCA) work together to provide 
the resources needed to support their 
recycling efforts. While the SCA pur- 
chased a recycling bin for each class- 
room, the PTA pays for the recycling 
service. Last year, recyclables were 
picked up bi-monthly; happily, ef- 
forts now require weekly pick-ups. 
The muscle comes from the kids (all 
637 of them), the PTA "Go Green" 
team, and staff members like REES' 
counselor, Anne Game, and physical 
education teacher, Rhett Rutman. 
Each Friday morning Game and Rut- 
man are available to help the kids un- 
load their recycle bins and to thank 
everyone for doing their part. 

"Students on the 'Go Green' 
team pick a different friend to help 
each week," stated Game, "with the 
goal being that all students will have 
an opportunity to empty the class re- 

cycling bin. Our students are excited 
to help the environment." 

Principal Johnna Riley is as 
proud of the environmental leader- 
ship role REES is taking as she is ex- 
cited about the methods used to craft 
their message, a message made clear 
during last year's field day. "Our PE 
teacher, Mr. Rutman, planned our an- 
nual field day to reflect our recycling 
theme. We had a 'Reduce, Reuse, and 
Recycle' field day ... and partnered 
with the Keep Henrico Beautiful pro- 
gram (KHB) to plan the day. Students 
had so much fun kicking balls made 
of trash inside plastic bags and crawl- 
ing through obstacle courses made 
from cardboard boxes. It was a great 
culminating activity for a year of 'Go 
Green' efforts." 

Then there's all that fun to be had 
on "paperless day," a once-a-month 
dream come true for kids of all ages. 
On paperless day, teachers provide 
hands-on lessons only, and students 


^ M'^ 

Above: It's pumpkins and markers this 
Paperless Day! Below: Our memories of 
Field Day 2008. 

learn using a variety of different ma- 
terials — ^bvit no paper and pencils al- 
lowed! In addition to making learn- 
ing exciting, paperless days have 
made everyone aware just how much 
paper is used daily (approximately 
3,000 sheets!) and, conversely, how 
much can be saved with a little effort. 
According to Game, plans in- 
clude building on the programs al- 
ready in place, investigating other 
initiatives, and forming a student-led 
"Go Green" team. While their part- 
nership with the Keep Henrico Beau- 
tiful program continues to grow, 
other partrierships will be sought as 
more opportunities present them- 
selves. All signs point to a future 
that's great and green at Rivers Edge. 
But, then, everybody knows that. D 

Gail Brown is a retired principal for Chesterfield 
Coimty Public Schools. She is a lifelong learner and 
educator, and her teaching and administrative ex- 
periences in grades K-12 liave taught her that proj- 
ect-based environmental programs teach science 
standards, promote core vahies, and pro- 
vide exciting educational experienca 
for the entire coniininitif. 

Above: What can I make with 
just straws and string? 



ur roots spring from the Appalachian mountain ranges of far Southwest Vir- 
ginia — the land of our childhood. We have traveled extensively and could 
have built our retirement home in any of the places we visited. But because 
our hearts belonged to the mountains, to the hollers, and to the people of this isolated 
area, we made Long Ridge in Dickenson County our home, close to the counties of our 
beginnings. Our house is perched on property where Wayne's great grandfather and 
great grandmother are buried, something we did not know until we had decided to buy. 

We endeavor to be in harmony with the mountains and the wildlife that frequent 
this area. The view allows for a panorama of several mountain ranges but few valleys, 
and we can see Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee from our deck. Strip mines near 
our property have been reclaimed, providing habitat and food for turkey and deer. 

In May we look forward to the arrival of hummingbirds and tree swallows. We feed 
the hummers continually until they depart for warmer climates around September and 
feed other, smaller birds throughout the year, especially on snowy days. Deer glean the 
apples from our small orchard of 150 or so trees, and many birds enjoy the last of the un- 
picked cherries. 

Wayne has fond childhood memories of hunting and fishing and camping with his 
uncles. In retirement, he again hunts deer and fishes the rivers and streams nearby. 
Fresh and preserved vegetables from the garden were so much a part of our youth. And 
that tradition continues. 

This land is the place we had yearned to be. We are home. □ 




essay by Genevie Riner 
photos by Wayne Riner 

Above: Princess and White Face are walking to the 
pond for water and stop to watch me, wondering 
if I am bringing them something to eat. 
Left: Beavers sleep during a late February day in 
their lodge, covered by a light blanket of snow. 
Right: Eyes that are well camouflaged against 
bare trees watch us as we walk the high ridges of 
the winter woods. 


^ f 



Outdoor Calendar 

of Events 

Unless otherwise noted, for current 
information and registration on 
workshops go to the "Upcoming 
Events" page on the Department's 
Web site at or 
call 804-367-7800. 

February 7: Lenm the Basics of Flyfish- 
ing, Northwest River Park, Chesa- 
peake. Free and open to public. For 
more information contact Bill Wills 
Tu/FFF at 757-421-7151 or 

February 13-16: 2009 Great Backyard 
Bird Count, 
or / gbbc 

February 14: Grouse season closes. 

February 28: Rabbit season closes. 

March 7: Learn the Basics of Flyfishing, 
Northwest River Park, Chesapeake. 
Free and open to public. For more in- 
formation contact Bill Wills Tu/FFF 
at 757-421-7151 or tu389bwills 

April 4: Trout Heritage Day 

April 4: Kids Fishing Heritage Day, 
Graves Mountain Lodge. Starts 9:00 
a.m. For more information, call 540- 

April 4: Youth Spring Turkey Hunt 
Day. For ages 15 and younger. 

April 11: Spring Turkey season 

May 15-17: Becoming an Outdoors- 
Woman"", Holiday Lake 4-H Center, 
Appomattox. Ages 18 and up. D 


by Beth Hester 

Tlie Ultimate Guide to Wilderness Liv- 
ing: Survivhig WitJi NotJiing But Your 
Bare Hands and WJiat You Find In the 

by John and Geri McPherson 
Illustrated with black and white 
2008 Ulysses Press 
Phone: 510-601-8301 

"John and Geri are the real deal. They 
don't just teach this stuff, they live it ... 1 
can sit back ami watch my shows and see 
John and Geri's teachings peek through in 
eveni situation. " 

- Les Stroud, 
AKA 'Survivorman' 

How many of us have daydreamed 
about running away from home to 
build a life in the wilderness? More 
recently, how many of us perched 
nervously on the edge of our seats, 
cheering on Tom Hanks as he strug- 
gled to build a fire in the movie Cast 
Away? Survival is our most primal 
urge, and when harnessed correctly, 
it can bring out the most resilient and 
creative aspects of our selves. 

Jolin and Geri McPherson know 
this, and they teach wilderness living 
and survival skills to the instructors 
of the U.S. Army Special Warfare 
Command's S.E.R.E Survival School. 

With an expertise sharpened by 
years of field experience, they've 
built a satisfying, sinewy life for 
themselves on the homestead they 
established in 1978; there is no elec- 
tricity, and their homemade water 
system is gravity fed. 

The McPhersons' most recent 
guide isn't a rudimentary textbook 
for wilderness survival; it's more a 
step-by-step celebration of ancient 
Stone Age skills: making cordage, 
creating semi-permanent shelters, 
firing pottery, taiining buckskin, and 
trappmg food. Once these advanced 
techniques are mastered, they boost 
the bare-bones 'how-to-survive-in- 
the-woods' fundamentals that many 
of us learned as boy or girl scouts — 
skills that transform sheer survival 
into an adequate existence. Each 
chapter is illustrated with ample 
black and white how-to photo- 
graphs; their quality varies, but they 
sufficiently serve to reinforce the text. 

Though the authors were not fo- 
cused on mimicking any particular 
folkway, a collateral benefit of this 
book is the anthropological satisfac- 
tion gained from learning to replicate 
the life-skills of our ancient ancestors. 
We are shown how to create fish traps 
for ponds, creeks and rivers, build 
basic buckskin smokers, manufac- 
ture wilderness containers, and craft 
primitive bows and arrows. A section 
devoted to capturing and eating a va- 
riety of . . . ahem . . . 'small game' con- 
tains an amusing, but important side- 
bar concerning rodent awareness 
and the dreaded Hantavirus. John 
and Geri literally leave no stone un- 

The deceptively breezy narrative 
style belies the practical underpin- 
nings of the hard-core instruction 
contained within. A great read for the 
Robinson Crusoe in all of us. D 

Buy Your IJfetime License 

lleporlWildliie Violations 



Outdoor Writers 

to Meet 

in Hampton 

Hampton on the shores of the 
Chesapeake Bay is the site chosen 
for the jointly hosted meeting of 
the Mason-Dixon (M-DOWA) 
and Virginia (VOWA) outdoor 
writers associations, March 
20-22, 2009 at the Crowne Plaza 
Hampton Marina Hotel. 

The conference begins Fri- 
day afternoon with a harbor 
cruise or something equally ftm 
planned, sponsored by the 
Hampton Convention & Visitors 
Bureau. Dinner may be spon- 
sored as well; if not, it is dutch 
treat. The hotel has several good 
restaurants and many good 
eateries are within walking dis- 

Saturday morning begins 
with breakfast. Planned presen- 
tations include digital photogra- 
phy, Photoshop, and editorial 
tips of the trade. 

The M-DOWA working 
lunch will include a program, 
while a separate lunch will ac- 
commodate the VOWA annual 
meeting. Presentation of awards 
recognizing winners in the youth 
writing, undergraduate writing, 
and the association's excellence- 
in-craft competition will also be 

During the evening, a cock- 
tail hour will be followed by 
Mason Dixon's Dominion-spon- 
sored annual awards bancjuet. 
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine has 
been invited as the keynote 
speaker. He is an avid sportsman. 

If you have questions or need 
more information, please contact 
King Montgomery at 703-425- 
0849, or 
And check out www.visithamp- and www. crowne D 

Cancer Research 

by Marika Byrd 

Now's the time to start training for 
the Ukrop's Monument Avenue lOK 
run, scheduled for March 28, 2009. 
Mark your calendar and volunteer to 
run, assist at a water station, or cheer 
on your favorite athletes as they run 
to help fimd research and find a cure 
for cancer. You'll be in good company. 

Last year, 19 Conservation Police 
Officer trainees from the 4th Basic 
Law Enforcement Academy at the 
DGIF along with other employees 
participated in the event which bene- 
fits VCU's Massey Cancer Center (a 
charitable partner). That race saw 
24,000 entrants, including 1,891 
young rimners ages 6 through 12 in 
the inaugural "First Market Mile 
Kids Run," finish tlie race. All DGIF 
runners finished in under one hour. 

Major Steve Pike, Assistant Chief 
of the Law Enforcement Division at 
the Department and a race partici- 
pant, emphasizes the necessity for 
trainees to be "fit for duty" during 
classroom education. The program 
includes a requirement for running 
three times weekly and swimming to 
stay physically fit and able to defend 
oneself, fellow officers, and the pub- 
lic at large from offenders, including 
violent ones. The Ukrop's lOK is the 
only annually organized race in 
which each academy class partici- 
pates. In addition to keeping fit, it of- 
fers trainees an opportunity to give 
back to the commumty. 

Tony McFadden, president of the 
2008 DGIF Conservation Officers 
class, said he was nervous at first and 
did not know if he could make it that 
far. McFadden has since made con- 
tact with a judge back in the Lexing- 
ton area to run together for health 

Jessica Whorley, of the same 
class, said she thought it would be 
harder than it was. "After the acade- 
my training, I was ready for it." She 
felt she did a good job. 

The message to the public is that 
you reconsider trying to outrun a Con- 
servation Police Officer! They train 

right, run well, and stay fit for life. For 
event information, go to the Rich- 
mond Sports Backers Web site at 

April 4, 2009 

by Marcia Woolman 

Finally, a Kid's Fishing Day that of- 
fers things for the entire family! Yes, 
the fish will be stocked by DGIF for 
"Heritage Day" on the Rose River at 
Graves Mountain Lodge, and it will 
be only kids 12 and under who caii 
fish all day. But the fun does not end 
there. Graves Mountain Lodge will 
have over 50 mce prizes for drawings 
all throughout the day and a gift for 
every youngster who registers. There 
will be many exhibits, including 
snakes and raptors and hay rides to 
see farm animals, and excellent food 
will be served in tlie covered pavil- 

Trout Unlimited will be there 
with volunteers to provide help with 
the kids fishing. The entire family, es- 
pecially older children, can join in 
fishing classes on the pond and a 
casting demonstration and talk by 
Harry Murray, one of Virginia's 
renowned fly fishermen. Fly tying 
will be offered for kids and aclults, so 
you can try your hand at tying your 
own first fly Or you can just watch a 
tying demo by one of our experts. A 
team of stream monitors will bring 
up the bugs that trout eat, so you can 
learn about them too. For the adults, 
there will be a fly casting contest. 

Wildlife exhibits, information 
booths, and enough to keep the 
whole family entertained for the en- 
tire day! Starts at 9 AM. Come early, 
stay late. LJ 


CPO of the Year 

We are very pleased to auinounce that 
Senior Officer Gregory Funkliouser 
has been named the 2008 Conserva- 
tion Police Officer of the Year! 

A 10-year veteran with the De- 
partment, Funkhouser began work 
in Roanoke County and also handled 
responsibilities for Salem and 
Roanoke cities. This year, he added 
coverage of Craig County to his terri- 

Over the years, Funkhouser has 
made training and education an inte- 
gral part of his career path. As a certi- 
fied Dept. of Criminal Justice Ser- 
vices Instructor, he has been actively 
involved in the Department's CPO 
Training Academy. Funkhouser is 
certified as both a Boating Safety and 
a Personal Watercraft Safety instruc- 
tor, and serves as the Field Training 
Officer for new CPOs. He serves with 
a specially trained group of officers 
who instruct CPO recruits as well as 
conduct In-service training. 

Officer Funkhouser is an ex- 
tremely dedicated officer and educa- 
tor and an exceptional public 
spokesperson for the Department, as 
evidenced by his record of reaching 
out to sportsmen's grovips, civic or- 
ganizations, and other citizens. His 
work ethic promotes the DGIF mis- 
sion and enhances public knowledge 
of safety, game laws, and wildlife 
management. D 


I didn't get to be a trophy 
buck falling for a trick 
like that. 

Congratulations are due to Major Mike 
Clark, who recently joined the Richmond 
office after a long career in the Shenan- 
doah Valley region. Clark has been with 
the Department for 30 years and has cov- 
ered many assignments across the state. 
He was formally promoted to the rank of 
major in September His new responsibili- 
ties will include managing the Law En- 
forcement Division's budget and training 

Find Game 

Find Game is an interactive Web-based 
map viewer designed by theVirginia De- 
partnnent of Game and Inland Fisheries 
to provide better and more current in- 
formation about hunting land location 
and access in Virginia. F/nd Game allows 
users to map hunting areas by location 
and/or by game species, along with 
hunting quality by species, land manager 
contact information, site description, fa- 
cilities available, access information and 
associated Web links. 
To learn more about Find Game, visit 

Subscribe to the NEW 

Virginia Vepartwent of (ante and Inland Fisheries 

Outdoor Report 

For a free email subscription, visit 
our Web site at 
Click on the Outdoor Report link and 
simply fill in the required information. 

Commonwealth o/'Virginia 

Department of Game and Inland Fisheries 

Lifetime Licenses 

Open the door to a lifetime of 

enjoyment in the great outdoors 

of Virginia with a lifetime freshwater 

fishing, hunting or trout license! 

It's an investment that keeps on giving. 

For more information visit: 


or calll- (866) 721-6911 




by Ken and Maria Perrotte 

Northern Necker Duck Gumbo 

|J / aterfowl recipes abound up and down the Eastern 
WW Seaboard and across the Gulf states. 

Ducks and geese were dietary staples of early Virgini- 
ans and much of the rest of the nation had a taste for 
ducks that market hunters did their best to satisfy. Beyond 
our own storied marshes, though, perhaps no state has 
achieved as much legendary duck hunting status as 

Maria's father, Allen johness, was an avid duck hunter 
in his day, gunning the vast marshes south of New Or- 
leans. She grew up enjoying many varied dinners featuring 
duck, but a Cajun-style duck gumbo was a real favorite. 

"It makes a good gumbo" is a running punch line in 
Cajun Country for almost any critter considered a little 
unsavory on the taste buds. Coots, mergansers and a few 
other varieties of waterfowl come to mind. But, "good" 
ducks and a good roux make for good gumbo. Delicate-fla- 
vored teal, wood ducks, or even ringnecks match well with 
other ingredients in the recipe. 

In this dish called "Northern Necker Duck Gumbo," 
she takes a bayou country favorite, adds a little Virginia 
venison sausage and Hog Island greenv^ng teal, and, well, 
"Laissez les bon temps roulez." 

Northern Necker Duck Gumbo 

2 large or 3 small wild ducks 

2 tablespoons light oil (such as canola) 


cup vegetable oil (traditionalists wanting old 
world flavor can use lard, butter or bacon fat) 
cup flour 

pound smoked sausage 

cups chopped onion 

cup chopped green pepper (optional) 

cup chopped shallots 

tablespoon minced garlic 

tablespoons minced parsley 

quarts cold water 
teaspoons black pepper 
teaspoon cayenne pepper 
teaspoon thyme 
bay leaves 
teaspoon allspice 

Vi teaspoon cloves 

3 tablespoons file powder 
salt and pepper to taste 

Cut duck into quarters. De-bone the breasts, retaining the 
bones. Lightly coat meat in flour. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 
a large heavy pot. Sear floured duck pieces in the oil until 
browned on all sides. Remove and set aside. In the same 
pot, add vegetable oil (or butter or lard), mix in the flour, 
and stir continuously over low heat until dark brovm. 
(This will take 20 or 30 minutes and the roux should be the 
color of milk chocolate.) Add the sausage, onion, green 
pepper, shallots, garlic and parsley, and cook, stirring 
often, until vegetables are soft (about another 5 minutes). 
Add the duck meat and retained bones. Stir in half the 
water and all the seasonings except the file powder. Mix in 
the rest of the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and 
simmer the gumbo for about an hour or until the duck is 
tender, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Remove the 
bones, add salt and pepper to taste, and add file powder. 
Stir and serve over boiled long grain rice. 


* Roux is a staple for many French, Creole, and Cajun 
dishes. For those unfamiliar, a roux is simply equal parts of 
flour and oil (or butter) cooked slowly until brown. Some 
of the old Cajun roux masters would use duck fat in the 
recipe. To highlight the bold flavors of this duck gumbo, we 
like a dark roux, which tends to have a rich, nutty taste. 
Some recipes, particularly seafood gumbos, call for a 
lighter roux. Since you need to constantly stir the roux to 
prevent burning, it's smart to assemble all ingredients be- 
fore you start cooking. 

* File powder is made from sassafras and can be found in 
most supermarkets in the spice section. 

* We use our homemade smoked venison sausage, but any 
commercial smoked sausage works well. 

* A variation could be: adding a pint of oysters at the end of 
the cooking time and simmering for 5 minutes before 
thickening with file. 

* Pair with a nice pinot noir or syrah wine. Pinot noir is 
tough to grow in Virginia. Consider matching with a Hor- 
ton Vineyards' 2002 Syrah, Rebec Vineyards' Pinot Noir, 
or Rapidan River Shiraz. 

* Serve with green salad and crusty French or Italian bread. 



by Lynda Richardson 

Be A Deer and Be My Valentine! 

/I while ago I was talking with 
g\ Helen Tripp of Richmond and 
she told me about a wonderful tradi- 
tion that her family enjoyed. In the 
early '80s, when her girls were old 
enough to know about Valentine's 
Day, every February Helen would 
gatiier up her husband Guy's copies 
of Virginia Wildlife magazine, scissors, 
glue, and construction paper, and she 
and the girls would pile onto her bed 
to begin cutting and pasting hand- 
made valentines. As they hunted 
through copies of the magazines, 
photographs would spark ideas and 
sayings such as, "Be a deer and be my 
valentine," and, "It would be just 
ducky if you'd be my valentine," and, 
"I'm flying high when you're my 
valentine." As the girls cut and past- 
ed, Helen would write their sayings 
on each card. How fun! 

Helen's girls made some very creative and 
fun cards for Valentine's Day when they were 
young. The large card shown here was made 
by Laura just a few years ago. The tradition 
lives on! '^2009 Lynda Richardson 

Although this happened twenty- 
plus years ago, Helen still has a few 
of those treasured valentines hidden 
away. When she offered to show 
them to me I thought it would be a 
wonderful opportvmity to share this 
idea with you, the readers of Virginia 
Wildlife. You too could start a family 
tradition of making your own valen- 
tine cards, or any cards for that mat- 
ter. And if you don't want to cut up 
your magazines, why not use your 
own photographs? 

Recent e-technology advances 
mean you can really have some fim 
with your family and this "cut-and- 
paste" idea. Photographs from mag- 
azines can still be cut and pasted into 
delightful cards, but now they can 
also be reproduced by way of scan- 
ners. You and the kids can make 
copies of favorite hand-made cards 
and send them to all of yovir family 
and friends! And, if you want to use 
your own photographs, software 
programs such as Adobe's Photo- 
Shop (now available as version CS4) 
will allow you to cut and paste your 
pictures into cards, as well. 

The Tripp family tradition of 
hand-made Valentine's Day cards 
has generated fond memories for 
Helen's daughters. Just a few years 
ago, eldest daughter Laura gave her 
mom a large, "traditionally made" 
valentine with a picture of a bear cub 
and hand-drawn hearts. 

Why not gather your kids togeth- 
er this February and start your own 
card-making family tradition? D 

You are invited to submit one to five of 
your best photographs to "Image of the 
Month," Virginia Wildlife Magazine, 
P.O. Box 11104, 4010 West Broad Street, 
Richmond, VA 23230-1104. Send origi- 

nal slides, super high-quality prints, or 
high-res 360 dpi jpeg files on disk and 
include a self-addressed, stamped en- 
velope or other shipping method for 
return. Also, please include any perti- 
nent information regarding how and 
where you captured the image and 
what camera and settings yovi used, 
along with your phone number. We 
look forward to seeing and sharing 
your work with the readers of Virginia 

Alan Pulley of Suffolk photographed this 
mallard hen sitting on her nest in the hollow 
of a tree near a small pond on his parents' 
property in Suffolk. Alan reports that the 
hen's nest was a few feet from the ground, 
and she was so well camouflaged that he al- 
most missed seeing her. Good spotting! 
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi, Canon 85mm 
lens, ISO 200, 1/ 20th, f 5. 6. 



^ 4 

Outdoor Cata 



Limited Edition 
Virginia Wildlife 
Collector's Knife 

Our 2008 Collector's knife has once again been customized by Buck Knives. 
The knife features a red-tailed hawk engraving, augmented by a natural 
woodgrain handle and gold lettering. A distinctive, solid cherry box features 
birds of prey. 
Item # VW-408 $90.00 each (plus $7.25 S&H) 

2007 Virginia Wildlife 
Collector's Knife 

Customized by Buck Knives, this classic model 1 10 folding knife is 8 1/2" 
long when fully opened and has a distinctive, natural woodgrain handle with 
gold lettering. Each knife is individually serial numbered and has a mirror pol- 
ished blade engraved with a fox. A solid cherry box engraved with foxes is in- 



and Turtles 

$90.00 each (plus $7.25 S&H) 

From mountains to the coast, our plush collectibles will remind vou of your 
favorite Virginia habitat. (Sizes range from 5" to 9" long) 


White-tailed Fawn 
Sea Turtle Set (2) 

$9.95 each 
$9.95 each 

Hooks & Horns 
Video Game 

Match wits against the king of upland game 
birds, the spring gobbler, and test your hunt- 
ing skills with the magnificent white-tailed 


$14.95 each 

To Order visit the Department's Web site at: or call (804) 367-2569. 

Please allow 3 to 4 weeks for delivery. 



Wildlife Program 

Nongame Tax 
Checkoff Fund 

Celebrate the 27th anniversary of 
Virginia's Nongame Wildlife 
Program by helping to support essential 
research and management of Virginia's 
native birds, fish, and other nongame 

If you are due a tax refund from the 
Commonwealth of Virginia, you can 
contribute to the Virginia Nongame 
Wildlife Program by simply marking the 
appropriate place on this year's tax 
checkoff, on the Virginia state income 
tax form. 

If you would like to make a cash do- 
nation directly to the Virginia Nongame 
Wildlife Program using a Visa or Mas- 
terCard, you can visit the Department's 
Web site or mail a check made out to 
Virginia Nongame Program to Virginia 
Nongame Program, 4010 W. Broad St., 
Richmond, VA 23230-1104. 

For subscription-related calls only. 1-800-710-9369 

Twelve issues for just 'SI 2.95 

All other calls to (804) 367-1000 

Visit our Web Site at ^\'^\'^v.dgif.^■ 

Virginia Wildlife Magazine 

A dog-gone good deal! 

Order Online 

With just the click of a 

mouse, you can order 1 2 

months of Virginia Wildlife 

online using your VISA 

or MasterCard and have 

it delivered to your home 

forjust $12.95 a year. 

That's almost a 75% 

savings off the cover 

price. While you're there 

don't forget to check out 

the Virginia Wildlife 

Outdoor Catalog for a 

unique and special gift.